Richard Wilson
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Like an eagle in a dovecot
The intrusion of the time into the play
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In William Shakespeare's plays the actors are for ever being interrupted by hooray henrys 'who hoot and jeer from the side of the stage. For Elizabethan and Jacobean theatregoing was always a public affair, Andrew Gurr reminds, in which the visibility of the audience 'allowed them to play almost as large a part as the players'. In Coriolanus Shakespeare composed the great tragedy of representation when 'the nobility based in rights attached to land lost its power to represent' with the birth of the public sphere. For Coriolanus reveals instead how Jacobean theatre remained bound to the master-slave dialectic and the 'royal remains' of the great house. In a theatrical context, Coriolanus's disgust with the Forum resembles the alienation of those notables who, according to Ben Jonson, were driven by the new rules of exchange to stand up 'between the Acts'.

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Free Will

Art and power on Shakespeare’s stage


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